My church likes to mix things up every now and then. Yesterday, we skipped the traditional sermon and instead spent time in reflection and prayer. There were “stations” set up around the main room of the church building, and the pastor encouraged everyone to wander through the different stations and to seriously listen for God’s voice.
A whiteboard in one corner invited people to write down what they thanked God for in 2012. Another whiteboard asked what people may have failed at in the past but will try again in 2013. On one wall, people could put up sticky notes with the names of people who need prayer. The opposite wall had a few prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, to read if people wanted more inspiration. A wall with chalkboard paint let others write out their dreams and goals for 2013. Then, hidden behind the main stage, a couple more stations offered communion bread and juice as well as candles to light if people felt God calling them to something for the new year. Most of all, the pastor wanted us to take advantage of the time and open space by asking God what he wanted us to do in 2013.
After I spent some time at the different stations, I sat down and typed on my tablet a prayer I’ve had on my mind often lately:
What do you want from me this year? What are your plans, God? Please tell me. Let me hear and recognize your voice. Who do you want me to be? Where do you want me to go? Please speak and give me the ears to listen.
The truth is I still feel unsettled and restless despite my fortunate circumstances. God has provided for me more than I deserve. Yet, my life feels like it has reached a standstill. I was chugging along, growing and making changes, until a landslide blocked the rails ahead, and I can’t see around it. I feel stagnant.
I’m bugged by this idea that I’m not doing enough, even though I know there’s no such thing as “enough.” I know I’m not doing as much as God deserves for all he’s done for me and just for who he is, but there are good reasons why the Bible says working for righteousness is ridiculous. Doing enough doesn’t exist. I know God deserves more than everything I could give him, even if I could feasibly dedicate every moment of my life to his service. But shouldn’t I give him as much as I can? Even with that more realistic goal, I’m still nowhere close.
I want to do more for God, but I don’t know where to start or where to go. God hasn’t given me much guidance with this, either. I keep asking him for directions, but he hasn’t called me. I’ve lost my guide in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. The best that I can make out is that I’m supposed to wait. Waiting is almost harder than working.
On my company’s blog, the first post of our newest employee struck me where I thought I was safe. The blogger, Andrew Fouché, wrote on patience and God’s timing. He talked about how God gives us “seasons of patience” in which we may not see anything happening, but God is preparing us while we wait for his perfect plan to be revealed. For a long time, I’ve liked to consider patience as one part of the spiritual fruit that didn’t give me trouble. As I read the blog post, though, I realized that my patience really just extends to waiting in line, heavy traffic, or for someone to email me back. It seems easier to be patient with other humans than with the holy and eternal God.
Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you know that Moses was 40 years old when he fled Egypt for the first time? The Prince of Egypt got it wrong when Moses ran into the desert as a young man with barely any facial hair. The real Moses then spent the next 40 years learning how to care for sheep. He married and had sons during his exile. Moses probably never expected to return to Egypt. But then he saw the burning bush and heard God’s voice tell him that Moses would deliver the nation of Israel from Egyptian slavery. Moses was 80 years old. When Moses finally traveled back to Egypt and announced his mission, God hardened the pharaoh’s heart so that it took 10 divine plagues on Egypt to free the Israelites.
Fast forward through the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, and a whole nation traveling through the desert. God eventually brought his people to the land he promised to give them. The people disobeyed, though, and did not trust God, so he sent them back into the wilderness to wander for 40 years without a homeland. Moses survived through their wanderings, living to 120, which wasn’t as unusual as it is today. Just before Moses died, God took him up Mount Nebo to see the whole land he would give the Israelites. Moses saw the land, but he wasn’t allowed to enter into it. He died on its borders, and then God chose another man, Joshua, to finish the work and bring the people into their country.
The life of Moses encourages me as I wait on God. As restless as I feel, I know God will use me in his own timing, and he will have me ready for whenever that is. God has work for me, and he has a plan. I can’t see ahead to what he has in store for 2013, but I can trust him and practice patience in the meantime.
Please speak and give me the ears to listen.
Happy New Year.